ENGLAND’s test-match cricketers have always considered Edgbaston a friendly environment, and the team has often won there. On Thursday of last week, the sympathetic ambience appeared to help another team of English cricketers.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI, representing the Church of England, were hosting the first triangular tournament for the Unity Through Cricket trophy, alongside a team from the Vatican, St Peter’s XI, and Mount Cricket Club, composed of Muslim players from Batley, in Yorkshire.
Fewer spectators turned up than Edgbaston holds for a test match, although there were enough bishops to fill a bench. The playing area was halved, and the pitch was on the edge of a wide “square” of wickets — more a rectangle than a square.The competitive atmosphere was more affable than fierce, but the day’s three games produced enough incident to justify the hope that the games will form an ecumenical moment.The Archbishop’s XI finished on top, after winning a game against Mount CC which will linger in the memory after games between much better cricketers are forgotten. At the start of the last of their 20 overs, chasing down a total of 148, the Archbishop’s needed ten to win.They scored a single off the first ball, then lost their seventh wicket off the second. Nine runs still needed. The new batsman, Andy Watkins, hit the next two balls to the boundary. The fielders crowded round the bat to stop a single. There was no run off the fifth ball. One ball to come, one to win, Watkins at the crease.His lunge missed the ball, which fell towards the fielder at short leg, but Jonny Hughes had already run his bat over the crease as the fielder and wicketkeeper fumbled the ball. Watkins charged down the pitch to complete the run. The Archbishop’s XI had won a memorable victory by three wickets.The Archbishop’s match against Mount was the second of the day. Since the Archbishop’s had also won the first, against the Vatican, they were overall winners before St Peter’s and Mount played the last game of the day.
The Archbishop’s game against St Peter’s was much closer than the match played in Canterbury two days earlier, which had ended in a home win by 63 runs.At Edgbaston, St Peter’s batted first, scoring 118 for 8. The remarkable aspect of the innings was that the highest score came in extras, which numbered 25. This was because the Archbishop’s bowlers sent down no fewer than 20 wides. Watkins took 3 for 27, but seven of the wides were his. (His last-over heroics in the second match will have erased these from his team-mates’ memory.) The extras amounted to three more than the top score of 22, made by both Kapila Jayasekara and Paulson Kochuthara.
The umpires made few concessions to the ability of the players, and applied the unforgiving rule that a ball down the leg side in a Twenty20 game constitutes a wide.St Peter’s proceeded to bowl 13 wides themselves, but good work by Jayasekara (2 for 18) and Jose Mathew had tied down the Anglican batsmen, and 27 runs were required off the last three overs; 16 off the last two. For the penultimate over, the St Peter’s skipper, Tony Currer, gave the ball to Vipin Thomas.
His first ball was a single, the second a wide, which was followed by a boundary four. Then came two wides, two singles, another four, and two off the last ball: 16 off the over. Thomas wrung his hands and held his head, as well he might, because the last scoring shot meant that the Archbishop’s had won by 5 wickets.
The memorable moment in that game was a run-out that deserves to be recorded in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. The dangerous Aamar Bhatti hit a shot hard towards mid-on, where Pete James missed the ball. It hit his thigh, and first bounced, and then rolled towards the wicket at the bowler’s end. Although it seemed to take place in slow motion, it was just quick enough to touch the stumps and dislodge a bail before Bhatti reached safety. Bhatti was run out for 1, which, with hindsight, did much to secure the game for the Anglicans.
Bhatti was clearly determined to excelling in the next. When St Peter’s played the last game of the day, Mount won the toss and chose to bat. Bhatti can bowl as well as bat, and had more success with his looping spin-bowling than in his first game, when he gave away 20 runs for no wicket. Against Mount, he took 3 wickets for the loss of just 4 runs.
Jayasekara took 4 for 23, and Mount were out for 119, having frittered away a strong start by a middle-order collapse. Notable batting performances came from Imran Bhutley Rawat, who scored 28, and Imran Nasipur Rawat, who made 42. Usama Sacha made 16, but no other Mount player made it into double figures.
Still, 119 was one run more than the Vatican had managed in the first match of the day; so Mount still reckoned they were in with a chance. But illuminated by Edgbaston’s powerful floodlights, Bhatti came in at No. 3. His 50 came up in only 38 balls, and he was partnered in stands of 41 for the third wicket, and 30 for the fourth. When the winning runs were scored, Bhatti was 69 not out.
He had hit ten fours and one six in making, quite easily, the highest score of the day. His all-round performance against Mount made him the obvious choice as Man of the Tournament. The only competition had come from his team-mate, Jayasekara.
Two defeats for Mount hardly seemed just. They are a good club team in the Huddersfield league, and selected a mixture of mature first-team players and promising youngsters from the second team. Zahoor Munaf, aged 17, hit four fours and three sixes as he scored 40 in 25 balls against the Archbishop’s XI, and pushed the team to 148 for 5, the highest score of the day — until the last-ball scramble by their opponents.
They finally had their day on Monday, when they met the Vatican for a second match, this time at Headingley. (One remarkable aspect of this tour has been the generosity of three first-class grounds.) Again playing under floodlights, Mount held St Peter’s to a low score of 92 all out. Abdul Ravat played a captain’s innings, taking four Vatican wickets and scoring the final run with the penultimate ball.
Mount were anxious to confirm their belief in friendship between religions. They had played the Vatican in Rome last year, and were enthusiastic competitors in this first triangular tournament, and wholehearted participants in the interfaith discussions at Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham the night before the matches.
There was also a successful coaching visit to Ark St Alban’s Academy in central Birmingham, a C of E school with a large Muslim intake.
The organisers of the tournament, including the Church Times, are now looking ahead to 2018, and they hope this will become a regular series. Other religions might like to join in. They would be welcomed.
St Peter’s XI
T Currer (captain) run out 12
K Markose lbw b Glenny 14
A Bhatti run out 1
E M Wright run out 12
P Kochuthara Antony c Lion, b Watkins 22
K M Jayasekara not out 22
N P Mulavarickal b Watkins 1
D Jestus b Watkins 0
JM Purayidathilmattel c Lion b Robinson 6
V Thomas not out 3
Extras lb 5, w 20 25
Total for 8 (20 overs) 118
Did not bat: J E Mathew
Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-33, 3-39, 4-71, 5-80, 6-81, 7-81, 8-99
Bowling: P Allerton 2.0.23,0; S Rylands 188.8.131.52.2; R Glenny 184.108.40.206; W Foulger 220.127.116.11; A Watkins 18.104.22.168; J Robinson 22.214.171.124.
Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI
C Lion (captain) c Markose, b Mathew 8
R Oram c Jestus, b Jayasekara 30
C Kennedy c Purayidathilmattel, b Jayasekara 6
S Rylands run out 15
P Allerton b Mulavarickal 12
P James not out 15
J Hughes not out 14
Extras lb 6, w 13 19
Total for 5 (19 overs) 119
Did not bat: J Robinson, A Watkins, W Foulger, R Glenny
Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-55, 3-56, 4-85, 5-85
Bowling: J M Purayidathilmattel 126.96.36.199; J E Mathew 188.8.131.52.2; K M Jayasekara 184.108.40.206; A Bhatti 220.127.116.11; N P Mulavarickal 18.104.22.168; V Thomas 22.214.171.124.
Umpires: S Bhatti and A Raval
ABC won by five wickets
I B Rawat c Watkins, b Rylands 13
I Kayat run out 13
U Sacha c Kennedy b Rylands 1
M Patel run out 22
A Ravat (captain) lbw b Robinson 22
Z Munaf not out 40
I Patel not out 24
Extras lb 2, w 11 13
Total for 5 (20 overs) 148
Did not bat: A Hussain, B Patel, I Sadat, I N Rawat
Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-19, 3-47, 4-61, 5-121
Bowling: C Lee 126.96.36.199; S Rylands 188.8.131.52; R Glenny 184.108.40.206; P James 220.127.116.11; P Allerton 18.104.22.168; A Watkins 22.214.171.124; J Robinson 126.96.36.199
Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI
C Lion (captain) b S Rawat 29
R Oram c Patel, b Motala 5
C Kennedy lbw b Raval 34
S Rylands c Patel, b Hussain 34
C Lee b Munaf 9
P Allerton lbw b Munaf 5
P James b Motala 10
J Hughes not out 9
A Watkins not out 9
Extras b 1, lb 1, w 3 5
Total for 7 (20 overs) 149
Did not bat: J Robinson, W Foulger
Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-46, 3-79, 4-106, 5-116, 6-122, 7-140
Bowling: R Motala 188.8.131.52; A Hussain 184.108.40.206; S Rawat 220.127.116.11; I Patel 18.104.22.168; A Ravat 22.214.171.124; Z Munaf 126.96.36.199
Umpires: I Harris, M Stocker
Scorers: M D Smith, H Vernon
ABC XI won by 3 wickets
I B Rawat b Jayasekara 28
M Makda b Mathew 8
I N Rawat c Markose, b Bhatti 42
M Patel c Markose, b Jayasekara 1
U Sacha c Purayidathilmattel, b Jayasekara 16
S Rawat lbw, b Jayasekara 0
Z Munaf c Davis, b Jestus 1
I Sadat c Mathew, b Bhatti 4
I Patel c Markose, b Jestus 0
B Patel b A Bhatti 1
A Hussain not out 6
Extras b 4, lb 2, w 6 12
Total all out (19.2 overs) 119
Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-53, 3-56, 4-97, 5-97, 6-98, 7-101, 8-101, 9-102, 10-119
Bowling: JM Purayidathilmattel 188.8.131.52; J E Mathew 184.108.40.206; K M Jayasekara 220.127.116.11; N P Mulavarickal 18.104.22.168; D Jestus 22.214.171.124; A Bhatti 126.96.36.199; P Kochuthara Antony 188.8.131.52
St Peter’s XI
T Currer c I B Rawat, b B Patel 1
K Markose b B Patel 14
A Bhatti (captain) not out 69
C Brown c M Patel, b Hussain 11
P Kochuthara Antony run out 11
KM Jayasekara not out 2
Extras lb 7, w 7 14
Total for 4 (17.1 overs) 122
Did not bat: S V Advani, A Davis, D Jestus, P Kallarakkal Thomas, J E Mathew
Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-27, 3-68, 4-98
Bowling: I Badal 184.108.40.206; B Patel 220.127.116.11.2; I Patel 18.104.22.168; A Hussain 22.214.171.124; Z Munaf 126.96.36.199; M Makda 188.8.131.52
Umpires: I Harris, M Stocker
Scorers: M D Smith, H Vernon
St Peter’s XI won by 6 wickets